GNADENHUTTEN --Indian Valley High's veteran coaching duo of Dave and Diane Bell welcomed 30 boys and 32 girls to pre-season track workouts earlier this month.
The 2012 boys' roster is senior-laden, which could bode well for the Braves' attempt to break through and win this spring's PAC-7 title. Of the 15 seniors on the roster, nine have earned one or more varsity letters, so it is an experienced bunch.
"Right now," said boys' coach Dave Bell, "we have a great group to lead this team. Some of them have been to the state meet and they understand what it takes to get there.
"Our biggest challenge going forward will be to find younger guys to fill gaps," he continued. "If we can do that, we feel we can challenge for the league title and push Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy."
The Braves graduated five, including Sean McKean, who was a member of the state-qualifying 4x400 relay team. Returning from that quartet are seniors Taylor Gray, Kyle Johnson, and Ryan Simmers.
The Brave senior class includes Robby Anderson (two letters/throws), Dominic Bell (three letters/pole vault), Dillon Bolton, Quinn Dickey (one letter/throws, hurdles), Gray (three letters/hurdles, sprints), Jake Gilmore, Kyle Gram, Johnson (three letters/sprints), Florian Kalies, Justin Kerns, Chris Martin (one letter/jumps), Josh Martinelli (two letters/pole vault, sprints), Steven Reese (two letters/sprints), Simmers (sprints) and Dakota Smith.
Of that group, Bell also made it to last spring's state meet, taking sixth place in the pole vault.
Only a pair of juniors are on the squad. They are Cole Craddoc (one letter/sprints, jumps) and Austin Menefee.
Six sophomores dot the roster, including Evan Menefee (one letter/distance), Bailey McBeth, Kyle O'Conner, Kali Oliver, Daniel Roan and Nathen Wenger.
Rounding out the 2012 roster are seven freshmen, including Arik Alderman, Jake Corpman, Tim Hawkins, Will Love, Travis Olinger, Tyler Olinger and Camryn Parrish.
On the girls' side, Diane Bell sees her team's strengths as her distance runners, especially in the 400 and 800.
"We have several question marks right now," she stated, "but I'm not ready to call them weaknesses because we have good numbers and a lot of depth. I think its just a matter of finding out who can do what and matching each girl to her best event."
The Lady Braves have 14 returning letterwinners in the fold and an eight-member senior class, which includes Tawny Bradford-Miller (sprints), Deanna Dragonov (throws), Miranda Gowins (two letters/sprints), Christina Kenney (three letters/distance), Karissa Kidd (two letters/middle distance), Katie Saho (throws) and Courtney Oliver (three letters/distance).
The junior class of six includes Maddy Azzadi (two letters/sprints), Courtney Emler (two letters/sprints, middle distance, hurdles), Keyona John (hurdles), Courtney Leggett (distance), Emily Probert (two letters/middle distance, triple jump) and AJ Smart (sprints).
The eight-member sophomore class is headed by letterwinners Emily Baker (hurdles/sprints), Devin Bell (pole vault), Sarah Biddle (hurdles), Katie Shamel (throws), Cori Schumacher (sprints) and Paige Saho (middle distance).
The other sophomores are Heidi Miller (distance) and Macey Roth (distance).
The freshman class includes Madison Bolon (distance), Alysia Corpman (distance), Leah Granato (distance), Alicia Jenkins (sprints), Allison Kenney (middle distance), Lauren Long (distance), Madison Miles (sprints), Ashley Reynolds (throws), Chelsey Swaney (middle distance, pole vault) and Courtney Welch (sprints/pole vault).
Bell lost just three girls to graduation and returns the 4x800 state qualifying team of Oliver, Emler, Probert and Saho intact.
Indian Valley posted a fifth-place finish in last spring's PAC-7 meet, so look for the Braves are going to push for improvement within the conference, but know they have to surpass CVCA and Triway.
In addition to the PAC-7 dual meets, Indian Valley will also participate in a non-league encounter with Ridgewood, along with invitationals at Claymont, Newcomerstown, West Holmes and Tusky Valley.